Facebook, Twitter and TikTok: journalists also can’t live without them…

Social networks, Fannie Bussières-McNicoll use them to the full. In a pandemic, confinement requires, it was through her Facebook account that she launched calls to all. Hello, I am a journalist for Radio-Canada and I am preparing a dossier on… I am looking for testimonials. Please contact me privately.

To take the pulse of public opinion, the journalist must leave the circle of friends-family-colleagues, and social networks make it possible to reach people who would otherwise have difficulty reachingsaid Fannie Bussières-McNicoll.

On Facebook, the reporter invites herself into private groups dedicated to a theme or defending a cause.

But some of these groups, wary of mainstream media, are reluctant to welcome journalists into their ranks. This is the case of people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Or, Fannie Bussières-McNicoll wanted to talk to them, because she had heard that, in the schoolyard, children were playing hunt for the unvaccinated. The journalist wanted to reach parents worried that their child would experience tension because he was not vaccinated.

The administrators of the groups, to whom she had immediately indicated that she was a journalist, initially refused to admit her. Many non-vaccinated people complain that the media ignore them, she explains, while I pointed out to them that by participating in my article, the parents of unvaccinated children could, precisely, bear witness to their reality. It freed things up.

Fannie Bussières-McNicoll

Photo: Radio-Canada / Photo courtesy of Fannie Bussières-McNicoll

A wealth of subjects

Shortage of housing, compulsory vaccination of travelers or screening for COVID-19 at the border: the subjects for which journalists have posted a watch in the discussion forums are not lacking. As soon as a situation arises, bang, bang, bang, the messages are multiplyingsays Fannie Bussières-McNicoll, who even receives messages from Facebook group administrators warning her that business is going on.

And then there are the comments. Fannie Bussières-McNicoll reads them all. After publishing her text on pregnancy in the time of COVID-19, a woman wishing to adopt a child wrote: Me, I’m expecting my little baby, he’s in Haiti, and everything’s on ice.

This is how the journalist learned that the entire international adoption network had been put on hold during the pandemic. She reached out to this woman and made a new text that caused comments from women forced by the pandemic to interrupt their journeys to fertility clinics.

Another text, other comments, this time from couples who had preferred to delay their plan to start a family. In the end, she made a series of eight reports in two months!

Gotta do the work

But on social networks, not everything is true. It’s a choice to draw an idea from it, it’s another to draw a text or a report from it. Gotta do the work, met Fannie Bussières-McNicoll in custody. Ensuring that the subject is of public interest, that the source is authentic and the information truthful, telling the story by presenting the right word, putting it into context… The essentials of journalism.

A journalist, seen from behind, seated in front of computer screens in a newsroom.

François Messier, journalist at Radio-Canada, uses Facebook, Twitter and Dataminr to gather information and be on the lookout for news on subjects he covers or that he could be called upon to cover.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

François Messier, who assiduously covers politics, always has the Tweetdeck technology platform open on one of his three screens in the newsroom of radio-canada.ca in Montreal. (Tweetdeck organizes this ocean of content that is Twitter.)

When President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in Haiti, I subscribed in time to say it to about fifty accounts of journalists, elected officials, Haitian senators, he describes. Is he reading about someone interesting in The world ou the Washington Post? He’s looking on Twitter.

In addition to being subscribed to a few thousand Twitter accounts, François Messier has his back with Dataminr. This tool, which is not a social network strictly speaking, opens up the prospect: if information springs up in a sector that he has previously identified, this web editor will be alerted.

A man waves a flag in front of heavy goods vehicles on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

In late January 2022, thousands of protesters opposed to trucker vaccinations gathered in Ottawa.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

At the end of January 2022, Émilie Dubreuil travels to Ottawa with a photographer. Its mandate: to cover for TV, radio and the web the beginnings of the demonstration of people who, among other reasons, opposed the compulsory vaccination of truckers against COVID-19.

Before leaving, she did police what all journalists : Follow the Twitter and Facebook accounts of crucial people and organizations, such as the Ottawa Police Service.

As for her own Facebook account, it is only used to distribute the texts of which she is the author, like a kind of newsletter. Her Facebook friends meet the 3000 and, no, she doesn’t know them all personally.

If I don’t put a text on my Facebook page, very few people talk to me about it, see it, read it. On the other hand, if I put it on social networks: poof! »

A quote from Emilie Dubreuil
A journalist, notebook in hand, listens to someone during an interview outside.

In addition to subscribing to multiple Twitter accounts, depending on the topics she covers, Émilie Dubreuil follows many of her journalist colleagues on Twitter.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

On these platforms, journalists, like the town criers of yesteryear, trumpet the news and promote their work, as described by Fannie Bussières-McNicoll, so that it does not die there after the first publication or broadcast.

Being a journalist at Radio-Canada is not enough to enjoy a certain visibility? No, slice Thomas Gerbet, journalist at Radio-Canada. There are people who take care of their social network, who get information only on this network. This social network has to bring them the information.

We are building […] a kind of community. I receive a lot of messages from people who will suggest topics to me. So our presence on social networks leads people to write to us. »

A quote from Thomas Gerbet

For documentation, Facebook and Twitter are useful: they take us to different worlds than websitessays Thomas Gerbet.

On Twitter, he makes lists and targets people in particular areas of interest: it allows me to clean up a bit and not have too much noise. It also uses notification systems to identify interesting publications. Thomas Gerbet occasionally uses Instagram to geotag photos.

But, many pairs of eyes being already on social networks, journalists in search of originality maybe should look elsewheresuggests Thomas Gerbet.

Him, to find balls and primeurs, claims to rely very often on the good old telephone.

Social networks have continued the work previously done by the Internet to shrink the planet, explains Vincent Grou, whose work as a journalist on social networks did not exist when he started in the profession, at the beginning of the century! Part of the job is to broadcast Radio-Canada Information content on various platforms. The public broadcaster’s Facebook page alone has 1,378,078 subscribers.

Social networks have facilitated contact with the public. I have lost count of the number of times people have written to us, on Facebook, and their stories have come out as news. »

A quote from Vincent Grou

Politicians and other public figures know how closely journalists (and not only them) keep an eye on them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. The practice of digging into their accounts to see their past statements and photos with controversial people has been made much easier by social mediaadds Vincent Grou.

Finally, nothing beats Twitter for following the unfolding of a story chronologically, sometimes in real time, he says. Wire format file continuously lends itself to it.

The danger of scattering

Launched in 2016 and renowned for being popular with teenagers, TikTok boasts of having a billion users.

For the RAD team – Radio-Canada’s journalism laboratory – it was obvious that we had to be there.

Back in February, as RAD aired its first clips on TikTok, Russia attacked Ukraine.

RAD and its journalist Nicolas Pham asked on TikTok the question that everyone is asking: are we witnessing the start of the Third World War? Analyst François Brousseau’s response, encapsulated in less than a minute (New window)has been viewed 163,000 times.

To date, RAD has 10,000 followers on TikTok. It’s another place to get knownexplains Johanne Lapierre, editor-in-chief of RAD

Short content produced by RAD in vertical video format is also published on Instagram and on YouTube Shorts: We are in the run-in, we see what workssays the editor-in-chief.

On the other hand, RAD has never invested in Twitter, Lapierre. Quand on va sur une plateforme, on s’en occupe, on ne veut pas s’éparpiller”,”text”:”parce que son public n’est pas là, dit JohanneLapierre. Quand on va sur une plateforme, on s’en occupe, on ne veut pas s’éparpiller”}}”>Because his public is not there, says Johanne Lapierre. When we go on a platform, we take care of it, we don’t want to scatter.

On a social network, content is generated by users. It is their attention that the news media are vying for. Can Youtubers sit for hours? On their serves documentaries. TikTok followers stream audio on what they listen to, but Instagram followers mostly don’t turn it on, just watch. Hence the importance of subtitles in the content put on Instagramexplains Johanne Lapierre.

It does not have the info and cram it there, there and there, it warns enough. We have to wonder about the best way to do it, according to the codes of the different platforms.

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